Two of California’s largest fires ripped through the state’s northern towns completely destroying over 180 homes over the weekend. Highways lined with buildings, cars and telephone poles were left burnt to ashes in a raging inferno that destroyed towns in a region that is too often the victim of wildfires made worse by human activity.
Residents of Lake County, San Francisco, spent the better part of their Sunday fighting a wildfire that had engulfed their town in a matter of minutes. Residents fled Middletown dodging falling telephone poles, power lines and falling trees.
According to a local resident Maddie Ross, “We were surrounded by fire. It looked like hell everywhere. It was terrifying, truly terrifying. I’ve never been in a situation like that. We all felt like the world was coming to an end.”
The town of more than 1000 residents, just 20 miles north of Napa Valley, saw whole blocks of buildings burnt to the ground. On the western side of the town, no house stood recognizable, only the charred debris of what was once a neighborhood.
Fire fighters had a tough time containing the spread of the fire. Wind gusts reportedly reaching highs of 30 miles an hour fanned the fire’s spreading over forest trees dried by years of drought.
Within hours, the quiet town of Middletown had been engulfed in smoke and flames.
California Department of Forest Protection spokesperson Daniel Berlant reported Sunday that four firefighters had suffered second degree burns trying to extinguish the fire. The firefighter said on realizing the strength of the fire, their priority changed to immediately evacuating the town.
The entire town, together with residents living along a 35 mile stretch on Route 29 has to be evacuated.
Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown was compelled to declare a state of emergency to release resources for fighting the fire and containing its damage. This was only the umpteenth time the governor has had to make the call.
Gov. Brown had earlier on just declared a state of emergency for a different 102 square mile wildfire on the south east of Sacramento. The fire had gutted down 86 homes and continued to rage on through the better part of the weekend after breaking out on Wednesday. It threatened to destroy 6,400 buildings. Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Mark Ghilarducci, said the fires were the most volatile ever witnessed in four years. He attributed their rapid spread to dry conditions that parched trees dry.
Ghilarducci said “The bushes, the trees have absolutely no moisture in them, and the humidities are so low that we are seeing these `fire starts’ just erupt into conflagrations.”
Wildfires are a threat to towns and cities in California after years of drought, initiated by global warming, rendered the trees dry and the fields barren. The wildfires are just another example of how ruthless nature can be in response to increased abuse by its inhabitants.